Center Field - Lonnie White Jr.
Lonnie White Jr. was another prospect who had a massive 2023 breakout season. A high school draft pick back in 2021, White Jr. struggled with injuries since getting signed. He even missed the first two months of 2023. But when he returned, he came back with a vengeance, and cemented himself as one of, if not the best outfield prospect in the Pirates’ system.
In 276 plate appearances, White slashed .276/.406/.476 with a .417 wOBA, and 139 wRC+. White Jr. was one of the few on-base+power threats in the minor leagues this year. There were only 77 players across all minor league levels with a .400+ OBP and .450+ SLG% in 250+ PAs. White walked at an extremely high 15.6% rate, and had an ISO of .200, on the dot. The only major downside to his season was his 27.2% strikeout rate.
White Jr. is one of the fastest runners in the Pirates’ system. On top of that, he has a fantastic glove out in center field. His arm is closer to average, but will still play nicely out of center. White also projects as an above average power hitter, but his hit tool is still in question. While he hit above .270, he also struck out over a quarter of the time.
But I believe he has the make-up to improve his game. He is an extremely athletic player who should have no issues staying in center field for the long haul. White has shown off some lighting quick bat speed, though his swing is a tad long.
The top outfield prospect is still only 20 years old and won’t turn 21 until the very last day of the year, December 31st. If he can cut his K% down to around 25% or lower, it will mark a step forward in 2024. He has the tools to be a quality center fielder in the future. The best possible outcome is a 30/30 Gold Glove threat. The hit tool makes him a slight risk, but he has the make-up to help improve it.